They Nailed Their Target
The prior Assassin's Creed was probably the most hyped up series debut not named Little Big Planet. It sold extremely well and provided a storyline ripe with easy retelling as the idea of a man whose family consists of hired killers throughout history gives a game near infinite numbers of sequels to churn through. The second game in most series tends to be the best of the bunch and we'll see if Assassin's Creed continues that tradition.
The first AC was a beautiful, but horribly flawed, title. It had a wealth of solid ideas and concept, but some poor execution that seemed to be borne out of a total lack of thinking by the developers. Every single mission you performed consisted of either listening in to people or beating up people until you unlock the ability to kill your target. That is when the game hit its apex, though, as the thought process required to sneak into a room or area full of people sworn to protect one person and then get out again is a game concept that really can't be beaten. And few titles makes a character feel as simultaneously vulnerable, but kick-ass, as Altair was.
Desmond, this time around, has strapped back into the Animus and is now portraying a family member named Ezio, who was in Italy during the Renaissance. Ironically, one of his best friends if Leonardo Da Vinci (I am not sure why it was necessary to include an actual historical figure when a totally fictitious one works equally as well, but I'm not one to nitpick). Your father gives you evidence to try and absolve him and others of a crime they've been accused of. You go to the man your father tells you to --- and, in a move that shocks nobody who has watched TV/watched a movie/read a book/played a game in the last 20 years, turns on you and kills your father.
So your tale becomes a tale of revenge.
Ezio has a few more tricks up his sleeve than Altair did. More weapons, more armor, and more abilities provide a lot of ways to tackle objectives. There really is a ton of things you can do in fights, and it is a good thing because you will fight a lot.
...unless you choose not to. In another nice turn of events, the developers also allow you to pay courtisans or locals to distract or fight with guards, giving you easy passage to treasure. This allows you to have a bit more control over whether you play a killer or somebody who is able to outhink his opponents. Both ways work quite well, to be honest.
The scope of the game is as large as the last one, and you still have the impressive ability to move around the environment that you had in the prior game. This works great, except in the occasional jumping timing based puzzles in which you struggle to complete a challenge because the camera is looking at the wall instead of ahead. Annoying, to say the least.
But, they have ramped up the difference in objectives. You normally have to do several different things to achieve objectives. Sometimes, you have to trail people. Other times, you have to win mini-games. You have to kill a deliveryman and take over his place. You even get to pilot a flying machine and crash the party of one of your objectives to take him out as well. You are not alone as you get several allies who will assist you with manpower on occasion or, other times, weapons and new skills.
Another huge change is your ability to upgrade your home base. After you leave your home city, your uncle Mario (yes, a Mario reference in a game about assassins seems a bit incongruous) takes you into the old family homestead and you can choose to upgrade the city to provide you additional revenue for weapons, armor, and the like.
The story seems a bit haphazard (there is a bit where you return to present day to show you still have Ezio's abilities in a segment that makes no sense whatsoever) and two DNA sequences just don't exist (likely they will be DLC in the future). But, the game does get going nicely and gives you a wealth of things to do if you choose to (hint: get the codex pages during your travels. They are required to end the game later).
This is a good game and a major improvement and I wonder how much more they can improve this concept.